You went to the doctor when you broke your elbow. They said it would take about six months for everything to heal and feel normal. Since then, you’ve been back to the doctor several times to talk about your elbow pain. Your X-rays show the joint healed well; the MRI showed the soft tissues are in healthy working order, so what’s wrong?
If you’ve followed your doctor’s orders and you still experience pain, it may be related to circumstances in your life.
Your brain produces pain when it perceives a threat.
Sometimes after an injury or an illness, the brain and the nervous system remain extra-sensitive.
There are reasons that the nervous system may stay highly responsive. These include:
• Ongoing pain
• Job concerns
• Family issues
• Fear and anxiety
• No confirmed explanation for your symptoms
• Failed treatments despite following your provider’s instructions
Can you relate to any of the reasons above? These could be contributing to your persistent pain, limited movement, and activity.
Movement can calm the nervous system.
Years ago, health care providers prescribed bed rest for back pain and other conditions. But over the years, studies show bed rest has a more negative outcome than exercise or just going back to life within the limits of the pain. Bed rest often leads to more days missed from work, increased pain intensity, and increased disability.
Movement is powerful. A six-mile run stimulates an endorphin release equal to 10 mg of morphine. We don’t expect our patients to run six miles to control their pain, but even a 15-minute walk can tap into those same types of endorphins to improve mood and interrupt pain.
A Bone & Joint physical therapist can help you with movements that are safe for your individual needs. They will design an individualized treatment program for you to help you meet goals that are meaningful to you.
Deep breathing is another way to calm the nervous system.
Breathing helps with relaxation. In a small study, the results suggested that deep-and-slow breathing combined with relaxation techniques can help people deal with pain.
One of the breathing techniques recommended by Caitlyn Van Der Geest is the 4-7-8 breathing technique. When you feel stressed, anxious, or feel pain, give it a try.
First, rate your pain or stress level. Then complete the following sequence three times.
1. Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth.
2. Exhale completely making a whooshing sound.
3. Inhale through your nose and count to four. 1-2-3-4.
4. Hold your breath and count to seven. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7.
5. Exhale like you’re blowing through a straw while counting to eight. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8.
These five steps create one breath cycle. Repeat steps #2 – #5 three more times.
After completing the deep and controlled breathing exercise, reassess your pain or stress level. Is it less than when you started? If not, take a few moments and repeat the exercise.
Not all pain stops with deep-and-controlled breathing. If you are dealing with chronic pain, make an appointment with one of Bone & Joint’s pain management specialists or Caitlyn Van Der Geest, DPT, a therapeutic pain specialist.